Emma Raducanu On Winning Wimbledon: ‘I’m Playing Well, And I’m Training Really Hard’

Emma Raducanu in Germany 2024

by Nikki Peach |
Updated on

To say Emma Raducanu has achieved a lot for a 21-year-old would be an understatement. Emma Raducanu has achieved a lot, full stop.

After winning her first grand slam at the US Open in 2021, age 18, she hasn’t had much choice in the matter. Raducanu has had to learn about the perils of fame, the ‘sharks’ operating in professional tennis and how to ignore a constant swarm of clickbait stories while most people her age were heading off to university and drinking too many Jaegar bombs in sticky-floored nightclubs.

‘100% I’ve had to make sacrifices for the sport,’ she admits. ‘The more I think of it, the more I think I have a span of maybe ten years max where I have to go all out for it. Whereas my peers in their 20s, that’s when their careers just start to take off – in their 30s and 40s – then they can work until they retire. And with me, I’ve got to go all guns blazing. It’s like a 100m race for 10 years, then I can stop.’

She speaks with the kind of discipline you’d expect from a world-ranking tennis player. While her friends are making holiday plans and booking out pub gardens for their birthdays, Raducanu is spending ten hours a day training for Wimbledon, going home to eat and sleep, only to wake up and do the same again.

Emma Raducanu at the Madrid Open - Day Two
©(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

‘I don’t get too jealous, but of course when my friends are on holiday for like two months in the summer, you’re like okay I’m just out here grinding on the court and travelling and everything,’ the tennis star confesses, before swiftly qualifying her statement. ‘But equally I get opportunities that they may never have. The people I get to be in a room with. The experience I get to have first-hand. All of these are such amazing privileges and you’re not going to get them for free.’

In the past three years, Raducanu has peaked at number 10 in the world ranking, received an MBE, become a brand ambassador for Dior and joined Vodafone’s Play Your Way to Wimbledon grassroots scheme to help kids around the UK get into tennis. She’s also a talented artist, pianist, style icon and food obsessive. From our brief conversation, it’s clear that if Raducanu decides she’s going to do something, there's little that can stand in her way.

Which brings us onto the question on everyone’s lips: How is she feeling about Wimbledon? ‘I feel good. I’m playing well and I’m training really hard, I’m doing a lot of good things and I know it’s going to happen. If not this Wimbledon, the next Wimbledon.’

The Championships, which start on 1 July, are nonpareil for British players and Raducanu definitely has her sights on the elusive Venus Rosewater Dish (otherwise known as the big gold plate). ‘I fully back myself and trust myself. It’s just a matter of when really,’ she says with such composure that it’s hard not to believe her. ‘I’ve been doing all the right things so I’m just looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd.’

Raducanu, who was born in Canada to a Romanian father and Chinese mother, was raised in Bromley in Greater London and it's there that she learned to master the game.

‘For me, the Wimbledon grassroots scheme [powered by Vodafone] is super important because I grew up playing at my local club. It wasn’t like a massive institution, it was just a regular club. When I look at other countries and other nations, they have so many amazing facilities and coaches at every local club. And here, I feel like the set up could be a lot better at a younger age. You kind of have to make it to a more successful stage before you have a great court, great gym and great coaches.’

© (Photo by Darren Gerrish/Getty Images)

After Raducanu’s historic win in 2021, which made her Britan’s top female player, the government and the Lawn Tennis Association invested £22m into public tennis courts across Britain – ‘which is a massive amount of money to go into grassroots courts,’ she hastens to add. This is something Raducanu feels incredibly proud of. ‘If I go anywhere now or drive past any park courts in London, they’re always fully booked and everyone’s always playing tennis. I can’t even get a court in my local club anymore! It’s amazing.’

To suggest the Wimbledon hopeful set out to inspire a generation like this would be a slight inflation of the truth. ‘I didn’t really know or have any awareness that if I achieved great things, the impact it would have. I would say only in more recent years have I understood how far sport can go.’

Intentional or not, she has played a fundamental role in encouraging more young people to play tennis. People who actively come up to her to tell her she inspired them to start, or to request a copy of her 2024 ‘Emma Raducanu calendar’ – something she didn’t even know existed. ‘To think that a kid would have my poster on their wall is pretty surreal. I feel like I’m playing for all those young players, they inspire me to be the best player on the court.’

Raducanu grew up inspired by the likes of Andy Murray and Laura Robson – people she’s had the pleasure of meeting and working with in the years since. She remembers training in the same centre as Andy Murray when she was in her early teens. ‘We’d get so nervous and giddy around him,’ Raducanu recalls fondly, ‘we were so young.’

Is she aware that she now has the same impact? ‘That’s why I love working with Vodafone – to try to enforce that I have strong, grounded values as well. I’m not just Emma Raducanu who arrives in a Porsche, wears Dior and flies first class. I came from Bromley on the park courts, and I want to send that message out. People can easily run away with a perfect image or a perfect life and it’s not like that.’

Idolised as she may be, Raducanu has also had to deal with an astonishing amount of negativity from online trolls – something she battles with on a daily basis. ‘When it’s online, it’s not like you’ve got 15,000 people shouting, “Go Emma”. Online, it’s more like 15,000 articles saying Emma’s this, Emma’s that, Emma sucks.’

As ever, her rational mind kicks into gear. ‘One thing I’ve learnt is that my reach goes a lot further than the headlines, because that’s just clickbait. Bar those articles, affecting and inspiring kids to pick up a racket because of something I said – that’s really cute. That is way more impactful for me.’

It's clear Raducanu knows when to silence the noise, let’s just hope she can hear it when she steps out to a home crowd on centre court in July.

Vodafone, Official Connectivity Partner of Wimbledon, is working with Emma Raducanu to inspire the next generation of tennis players through Play Your Way To Wimbledon.

Nikki Peach is news and entertainment writer at Grazia UK, working across pop culture, TV and current affairs.

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